New Orleans will be the best place to get a drink this week as the 11th annual Tales of the Cocktail comes to town from July 17 to 21. Over the last decade, the popular event has found its footing with industry experts immersing themselves in all things cocktail and fans of libations attending simply for the love of a good drink.
Founded by Ann Tuennerman at the Hotel Monteleone‘s Carousel Bar, Tales of the Cocktail combines Tuennerman and her husband Paul’s dual passions for New Orleans’ history and its cocktail culture. Tales has grown into a major attraction, with thousands in attendance every year. Programming is weighted toward professional mixologists and representatives of the spirits industry, but can be enjoyed by amateur aficionados as well. Pop-up cocktail vendors offer their wares in the lobby of Tales’ home base at Hotel Monteleone, often spilling out onto the street making it difficult to get from point A to point B without a libation in hand.
In the city that gave birth to the iconic Ramos gin fizz and the Sazerac, it’s fitting that cutting-edge mixologists are part of the ever-evolving culture of New Orleans. To this end, Tasting Rooms in Hotel Monteleone and the Royal Sonesta offer attendees the chance to taste where the industry is headed. But there are also seminars, special lunches and dinners and more to check out.
Dip your toe in on July 18 and learn the history and future of the dark grain at “Why Rye?” at 12:30 p.m. in Hotel Monteleone’s La Nouvelle Ballroom. Or find out about drinking on the fly with “Airport Bars” at 1 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom South, Royal Sonesta.
The Dame Hall of Fame Luncheon debuts July 18 at the Omni Royal Orleans, where top-tier mixologists will be saluted by Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails (LUPEC), and a bayou buffet featuring marinated Creole tomatoes, étouffée, bronzed chicken breast with satsuma mustard demi and more will be served. Women in their finest hats can sip cocktails mixed tableside by the ladies of LUPEC, followed by a question-and-answer session with honorees.
That evening, the Spirited Dinner series offers an array of options at dozens of New Orleans restaurants with internationally renowned mixologists, distillers and chefs taking center stage. The Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Windsor Court Hotel will feature a “Beauty vs. the Beast: Gin vs. Whiskey” menu featuring poached halibut cheeks, roasted poussin and, of course, a wide range of gin and whiskey cocktails. Criollo restaurant in Hotel Monteleone will serve a tropical feast with “Libations in the Stream — Hemingway’s Conch, Cuban and Caribbean Cocktails and Cuisine.” And the always-inventive ROOT will unveil its “This Bitter Earth” menu that spotlights bitters. Spirited Dinner reservations are available by contacting the 29 restaurants involved directly, and a full listing is available here.
Start off July 19 with “An Apple a Day Keeps the Drinker at Play” in the Royal Sonesta at 10:30 a.m. The session takes a look at the fruit’s role in the cocktail realm. Then at 10 p.m., don’t miss the Bare Knuckle Bar Fight at Jax Brewery with bar teams from around the country (such as Miami’s The Broken Shaker, Chicago’s Barrelhouse Flat and Boston’s Citizen Pub) competing for the best cocktail. The event will be hosted by beverage experts Steve Olson, Simon Ford, Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric.
Try a heavier topic on July 20, with the potential impact of climate change as detailed by Zacapa Rum’s Master Blender and Distiller Lorena Vasquez in “Global Warning: Spirits & Climate Change” at 12:30 p.m. in La Nouvelle Ballroom at the Monteleone. For a festival capper, take the July 21 New Orleans cocktail tour at 4 p.m., so you can get a taste of the French Quarter’s best quaffs.
Photo Courtesy of Hotel Monteleone